Sun, May

Duped Councilman Rationalizes Mayor’s Animal Bamboozle


CITY HALL--“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth.” Carl Sagan … meet LA City Councilman Paul Koretz. 

My last CityWatch article, “No Kill: LA’s Big Lie,” discussed Mayor Eric Garcetti’s recent charade that LA Animal Services, the city’s shelter system, is approaching “No Kill” status. By any standard, including its own, the City kills thousands of healthy, happy and highly adoptable animals, thousands more that just need a little TLC, and doesn’t know what has become of scores of animals it dumped on other high kill cities. 

Garcetti and his minions deny the killing by attempting to redefine death. Measured as ever, he responded with telling silence. 

So I struck up an email conversation with Councilman Paul Koretz, whose decades-long career promising help for animals has delivered none.

His ban on elephant torture devices known as bull hooks started as a promise to ban circuses which exploit animals, then just those that exploit elephants, then all elephant torture devices, then just bull hooks. What we got – a ban on bull hooks that still doesn’t take effect until next year – was an impotent piece of nothingness, since the circus beat Koretz to the punch by stopping its elephant exploitation altogether by retiring them to a sanctuary last week.

When you are slower to help animals than the circus itself, you have failed. Even severely abused Peruvian circus lions were sent to a sanctuary in South Africa last month, but are still exploited at Staples Center, down the street from Koretz’s and Garcetti’s offices in LA City Hall. 

Koretz, whose committee oversees LA Animal Services, has turned a deaf ear to LA’s irrelevant spay/neuter law, and misuses public meeting rules to prevent issues from being heard before a large, televised audience watching City Council meetings. Case in point: a filthy tire repair business in Van Nuys has the city’s blessing to breed pit bulls and Chihuahuas … the two types of dogs LAAS kills the most. Years after it was brought to his and Councilwoman Nury Martinez’s attention, the problem festers and cannot be discussed during scheduled agenda items. 

Koretz agreed to field my questions but ultimately addressed only one of them. Here’s question #9: 

“A recent CityWatchLA article explained LAAS unwillingness to pick up stray and injured animals due to its negative impact on the city's "live release" rate, a statistic that is widely rejected by humane advocates because it doesn't take into consideration an array of qualitative factors. Is it actually LA's policy to no longer pick up strays or injured animals?” 

And here is the discussion that followed: 

Paul Koretz: “I have asked and have been told that is not true. When I have spoken to [LAAS GM] Brenda Barnette, (photo above with Koretz) I have not been told that we are leaving strays on the street to improve our live save rate.” 

In a separate email, I sent Koretz Barnette’s own published statement: 

Daniel Guss: “Please see Page 4 at the top. "Also, everyone needs to remember that if we’re successful at rounding up all the strays, it will place more crowding pressure on our shelters, rescuers and everyone else working to increase the live save rate." How do you compare this to what you say Brenda said to you in response to your question?” 

PK: “Did she really say that? When and in what context?” 

DG: “It is her document. It is dated (6/25/15).  In response to the protests. Her chosen words.” 

A day later, Koretz responded: 

PK: “Despite Brenda's quote, which she acknowledges but says it is out of context, LAAS is not avoiding picking up strays to artificially keep down the live save rate. They are picked up when seen, they respond to complaints, they patrol for them in problem areas, but we just don't have the resources to find and pick up every stray. And no other city anywhere picks up all their strays. 

So that is the response, and I have no reason to believe it is not credible. Although I wouldn't mind adding resources to find more strays in areas where stray dogs are still running in packs.” 

DG: “She took HERSELF out of context? I asked you about that exact verbatim quote. You indicated you asked her about it and denied it was happening. Where was the context lost and by whom?”

Over the weekend, Koretz responded with (depending on your level of cynicism) a semi-non-sequitur that either hedges, is a red herring or simply demonstrates his detachment from issues related to life, death and suffering. Question #9, like all the others, remained unanswered. 

PK: “Not defending. Just paraphrasing her response as I recall it.” 

And that was that -- with no further explanation from Koretz on this or any other question. He was duped again but chooses to rationalize and embrace the bamboozle.

Again, I refer you to Carl Sagan … “If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle.”


(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a writer who lives in Los Angeles, and blogs on humane issues at www.ericgarcetti.blogspot.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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